Drug Takes Aim At Malaria

The compound DSM265 kills the malaria parasite Plasmodium in both liver and blood stages of infection.

A drug currently in testing shows potential to cure malaria in a single dose and offers promise as a preventive treatment as well, according to researchers writing in Science Translational Medicine.

The drug – DSM265 – kills drug-resistant malaria parasites in the blood and liver by targeting their ability to replicate. 

“DSM265 could be among the first single-dose cures for malaria, and would be used in partnership with another drug,” lead author Margaret Phillips, Professor of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern said in a press release. “The drug also could potentially be developed as a once-weekly preventive.”

The research team, which included people from UT Southwestern, the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Australia, the University of Washington, and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), determined that the compound DSM265 kills the malaria parasite Plasmodium in both liver and blood stages of infection. Further, the compound was shown to be well tolerated and effective in preclinical models.

Currently, the frontline anti-malarial treatments are artemisinin-based combination therapies, or ACTs, which are credited with helping to reduce the malaria burden. However, malaria strains resistant to ACTs have recently been reported in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos.

DSM265 likely would be partnered with another new drug and used as a one-dose combination therapy, the researchers said. Another option is to develop DSM265 as a once-weekly preventive for individuals traveling to malaria-endemic regions or for people living in areas where malaria infections are primarily seasonal and human immunity is low. Either scenario is still several years away, pending the outcome of current and future trials, said Phillips.

DSM265 targets the ability of the parasite to synthesize the nucleotide precursors required for synthesis of DNA and RNA.


1. Phillips MA, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015 : 296RA111